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It was a Black Friday contrast that speaks to the immense challenge facing public health officials as they try to slow an unprecedented coronavirus surge during a holiday season that many hoped would be a reprieve from a year of pandemic restrictions.

Los Angeles County public health officials announced a slew of new restrictions Friday afternoon, banning most gatherings and placing new limits on businesses. At that very moment, shoppers were swarming the Citadel Outlets in Commerce searching for holiday deals. Videos showing long lines of hundreds of shoppers trying to get into stores and parking lots filled nearly to capacity, with cars circling looking for an empty space, went viral on social media.

More than eight months into the pandemic that’s upended everyday life, Californians are exhausted by the disruptions and becoming more vocal about the new rules despite swelling hospitalization numbers and forecasts of rising death tolls.

Until now, L.A. County residents have by and large accepted the rules, especially compared with other parts of the country. But the county’s decision to suspend outdoor restaurant dining last week sparked a major backlash, with some questioning whether the cure was worse than the disease. The latest round of restrictions also brought groans, especially the closure of playgrounds that some parents say have been a lifeline for their stir-crazy kids.

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